Williams head volleyball coach Christi Kelsey will begin her fifth year at the helm of the Ephs this September in the midst of a youth movement that finds her fielding a roster with just one senior.
The 13-member Eph squad this fall includes 9 returnees from 2012 and will consist of four juniors, four sophomores, and four freshmen, joining senior captain Emily Doll.
Kelsey will look to Doll, a 2012 All-NESCAC Second Team honoree, for leadership both on and off the court.
Doll, who played in 98 sets last fall, will be one of a few important keys for the Eph frontcourt in 2013 after leading the Ephs in kills in 2012 with 235. She is also second among this year's returnees in blocks with 59 (11 solos).
Five of the 9 returning Eph players played in at least 92 of the team's 100 sets in 2012 when the Ephs finished 15-12/7-3 in NESCAC, advancing to the NESCAC Tournament Semifinals.
A year ago the Ephs charged out of the gate winning seven of their first eight contests, before struggling in the middle of the season then closing out the fall with three quality wins in their last five matches.
"Last fall was an important step in our growth process as a team," Kelsey offered. "We improved a lot over the previous year, while still being a fairly young group overall. I think the last month or so of the 2012 season really helped ignite something in our returners. We saw just how hard we could compete and had glimpses of our true potential as a team. We recognized a lot about what we could do as a group to improve our overall consistency from match to match and the commitment it would take to put ourselves in a position to compete at a high level physically and mentally this coming year."
|Claire Miller '15|
"More importantly, I think our group really has come to value that every single team member has an important role to play in our success," Kelsey added. "Whether a person is a consistent starter or someone who comes in to provide a spark for us off the bench, all roles are incredibly important. We need great depth to be able to last through such a hard-fought season. Having a team that is willing to invest in making each other and our team better day in and day out will be key."
Consistency and maintaining mental toughness will be the goals this fall. Kelsey is counting on last year's campaign to focus and tune this year's Eph team.
"I think two of the biggest keys for us this season will be our consistency and our ability to stay mentally tough under competitive pressure," said Kelsey. "Every team we play is going to be a tough opponent this year so we have to be able to stay focused and consistent in our preparation, while at the same time pushing each other and our team to a new level."
In addition to Doll, the returning Ephs of juniors Claire Miller, Emily O'Day, Mandy Schott, and Raea Rasmussen along with sophomores Ryan Farley, Katherine Lane, Catherine Egan, and Tayler Donze hope to use the experiences of the 2012 season as a springboard for the year ahead.
Returning outside hitters Miller and Rasmussen played key roles for the Ephs especially late in the 2012 season. Miller played in 92 sets last fall and recorded 226 kills, averaging 2.46 per set and notching 26 blocks (2 solos). Miller's 25 service aces were second best on the team last season. Rasmussen became more and more of a force as the 2012 season progressed, delivering a 15-kill effort in the NESCAC Quarterfinal win over Amherst as a highlight. Rasmussen's play up at the net led the Ephs to their first win over Amherst since 2009.
Junior Emily O'Day, the lone Eph to play in all 100 sets last season, made the successful move from the front line to libero to help strengthen the Ephs defense. O'Day led the Ephs with 366 digs last fall, while adding 39 assists. Her 21 service aces was fourth best on the Eph squad.
This season Kelsey will count on Ryan Farley and Mandy Schott to hold down the setter position. Farley impressed in her first intercollegiate season by racking up 8.71 assists per set and totaling 810 assist in 93 appearances. Additionally, Farley topped the Eph team in service aces with 26 and was second among Ephs in digs with 192 (2.06).
Last season Schott saw key time in the setter position while also playing an important role as a defensive specialist, chipping in 163 digs (1.94).
Sophomore outside hitter Catherine Egan registered an impressive debut season in 2012 when she fashioned a team-high 79 blocks that included a team-high 19 solos. Egan also added 155 kills in 92 sets played. Sophomore middle blocker Katherine Lane posted 49 blocks and contributed 111 kills in just 52 sets played. Both Lane and Egan hope to add both a dynamic middle option and a strong front court defensive presence at the net this season.
A year ago Taylor Donze appeared in 11 sets and six matches and this year she will again be counted on to help bolster the Eph backcourt as a defensive specialist.
|Emily O'Day '15|
Kelsey recruited a quartet of first year players who will all look to add to the strength and depth of the overall 2013 Eph roster from the outset. Funmi Adejobi (New York, NY) and Caitie Benell (Pacific Palisades, CA) look to contribute at the libero and/or defensive specialists positions, while outside hitters Tori Jasuta (Manhattan Beach, CA) and Anna Spellman (Morristown, NJ) will be counted on to strengthen the Eph offense and ball control.
"Overall, I think this group has the right balance of an experienced, talented and competition-tested group of returners mixed with a young, talented, and enthusiastic group of first-years," Kelsey commented. "They are all going to push each other in a positive way every day in practice and I think the overall level of our practices will be a few notches higher than a year ago. Our returners are hungry and motivated to take that next step as a program and the first years are geared up to add to that process as well. As an entire group, every single person has a passion for this game and a deep commitment to one another. As a coach heading into day one of preseason, you can't ask for much more than that. While every season will have its ups and downs, I really do believe this is going to be a fun and fiery group to coach this season."
The 2013 Ephs are working to improve on last season's third place finish in NESCAC, but the conference again this fall is loaded with quality teams.
Kelsey noted, "We know that the depth and competition of New England volleyball as well as the NESCAC only continues to strengthen and grow with each new season. It is going to be a highly competitive and overall exciting year to see how we stack up against our conference and region in the months ahead and see if we can continue to improve on our performance from a year ago."
The 2013 Eph season will begin with a trip to eastern Massachusetts, where they will face Eastern University and host Endicott College on the opening night of the Endicott Invitational on Friday, September 6. Match times are set for 5:00 and 7:00 PM in Beverly, MA.